Weekly Ballet Post, 3/29/18

I had three weeks off dance recently. The first two were due to work. The third week there were time issues, but as I found out this week they closed because of snow anyway. It’s warming up now but class was relatively deserted last night so I got a bit more attention than usual. Some very helpful corrections on frappés!

I dutifully worked out as much as I could in the last weeks, although I confess I was (and am) getting tired of my Pilates workout. It was sure effective though. I did a new barre for kicks last week and felt my turnout muscles were way stronger than before. Last night in class I was able to hold my turnout better than any previous weeks.

Relentless rélevés have helped with demipointe a lot. Ironically, I irritated a callus right on top of the bunion pretty badly so I didn’t do great on my right foot in class. Maybe I should ice & ibuprofen before class …

Finally, I’m trying to find technique shoes that are better for bunions. Taping gets me pretty far but it’s not enough. Finding the perfect shoe is a personal saga for all dancers, but I saw one ballet dancer on YouTube whom I follow and who has bunions mention that she was wearing Body Wrapper TotalStretch shoes in one of her videos, so I ordered two pairs today. My local dance store doesn’t carry that brand so I’ve resorted to buy-and-try-and-hopefully-keep-one. Fingers (toes?) crossed.

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Doggy dress lessons learned

The dress is a hit with Bean, but the fit has minor issues. That’s okay, this dress was meant as a prototype. She can still wear it fine, but it’s not as polished as it could be, even within the limitations of my skill.

– Neck binding stands up too much, so the shoulders do not lie flat. Next time finish by folding under (remember to add allowance!) and topstitching before joining shoulder seams. As a bonus, I won’t have to iron self bias tape!

– Do a better job with skirt gathering. Do not skimp! Use the double thread method next time. (I used a single thread this time.)

– Sleeves too narrow for a woven. They cannot be cuffed or rolled up for messy projects! I will probably just cut and re-finish the sleeves to make them short or cap sleeves once Bean approaches 3T size. But for the next dress, make the sleeves a consistent width throughout. These were tapered.

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New dress for my Bean

I had a day off recently and I blew it on sewing a new dress for my Bean <3

A child's dress in a red fabric with a printed dog pattern (front side)

A child's dress in a red fabric with a printed dog pattern (back side)

I used the free Bell Sleeve Dress pattern in size 3T and made a number of modifications. The fabric (woven cotton print) is about a year old, from Jo-Ann Fabrics.

The pattern was designed for knits, and my kid is a small 2yo. To be safe, I added enough width in the bodice to match a store-bought 2T dresses. I wanted a fuller skirt (plus I had made the body wider) so I eyeballed it—I think it came out to maybe 1.5 times as wide as the bodice. I did not use the bell cuffs, just the straight parts. Since this is a woven, I needed to add a back closure to allow her head to go through, so I added a back seam and a tie closure. The tie, which also acted as neck binding, was self bias tape that I made by hand (it was okay but I am never doing it again, I’m buying a bias tape maker asap). Since I forgot to remove the back seam allowance from the front, I converted the extra width into a tuck detail; you can see the pattern is discontinuous in a very narrow slice of the chest. That’s the tuck.

I had cut the fabric quite a while ago, I would say that took about an hour. Sewing took about 6 hours with a lot of interruptions, and a whole hour of that was hand sewing the tie, which was really narrow and I didn’t think I could pull that off on a machine. Maybe if I had an edgestitch foot … anyway. Bean has yet to try it on.

After adjusting the pattern based on how it actually fits, I plan to lengthen the bodice and learn to line a dress so I can make her more cool weather dresses. I plan to imitate Jenny Gordy’s patterns for her daughter, here and here, but I will probably throw in a few mods of my own. (She is the coolest, okay. I love her patterns, her taste, her expert designer’s eye … ahh, she’s amazing.)

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Friday Favorites, 3/9/18

Hungry Demigods” by Andrea Tang, published in Gignotosaurus.

Plot: Isabel Chang is a kitchen witch who runs a Pâtisserie in Montreal. One day, she is asked to help Elias, a young man with an immortality curse of Chinese origin, break his curse.

“Hungry Demigods” is a delightful story about family and food. (Against every stereotype, I don’t seek to read about these topics. Ever. A good friend linked me the story. Thanks, Tari!) But what was more, I deeply resonated with the Chinese magic elements and how they were used in this story–I don’t want to spoil them for you, because coming upon those elements so unexpectedly left me shrieking a little with joy! I feel it is the lit equivalent of amazing fusion cuisine (if you will), using and updating some of my very favorite concepts from Chinese folklore/mythology.

This story … I felt a bit like Elias biting into one of Isabel’s buns: “I’d forgotten how food could taste, after you haven’t eaten in ages. It’s like color returning to the world.”

Don’t get me wrong–I fully understand that not everything is for everyone. But when I do manage to stumble upon a story for me … there’s nothing like it.

You may notice I haven’t recced a whole lot of Chinese/East Asian diaspora stories. That’s because when I click on a story and realize that it’s about my ethnicity/culture, sometimes I will back-button. Even if the author’s name suggests they are writing from their lived experience as a part of said ethnicity/culture. Sometimes I run away ever faster—because 1) at least if someone is writing from a place of ignorance, it’s easier to shrug off if I don’t like it. 2) I feel like a traitor if I end up disliking something by a fellow Chinese/East Asian diaspora writer … and I have felt like a traitor many times. I know that’s irrational, but you try reasoning with feelings. Then one day I realized that my fear came from “the danger of a single story” (TED talk by Novelist Chimamanda Adichie). I had personally been burned by the prevalence of certain pieces of Chinese-American literature in the popular consciousness that I felt did not speak to my experience, but that due to the single-story effect, became what others thought of me*. Of course that was and is not the fault of the author or the literature, it’s the fault of the publishing environment. But it still hurt. I’m not going to apologize for protecting myself. But I do find that lately, I am able to explore more. To see what my fellow people are doing. Even to dip my own toe into telling my stories, which I had not really felt like doing in the past. That’s a story for another post. In any case, I’ve been grateful for the slow yet steady increase in Chinese/East Asian diaspora writers being published, along with stories about their cultures (not that they have to be, obviously, I’d be a hypocrite if I said so).

As usual, a review says more about the reader than the story! Which you should read. “Hungry Demigods” by Andrea Tang!

* Chinese stories from China, translated into English, do not meet my mental barriers in this regard. The original intended audience is different, so it doesn’t trip my wires.

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Weekly Ballet Post, 3/1/2018

This week while in class the teacher told me to pull my abs back more (not to suck in the tummy, but rather to scoop it back and also straighten the lower back) and when I did that, something happened: instant engagement of abs/back and my hips. It was the first time I was ever really able to feel myself turning out from the back of my legs in class. Massively improved my ability to stay turned out, and I did some pretty okay side dégagés. However, it felt pretty bad. Like my muscles were clenching my hip bones and grinding the socket à la mortar and pestle. Not healthy. When I tried to back off on the clenching feeling, the turnout muscles went dead and I lost my placement again.

Consulted some fora today and discovered that if I simultaneously ‘scoop the abs’ and ‘lift up and out of the hips’ I can reach the happy medium where my muscles remain engaged but are not clenching.

I haven’t been doing at home barres lately—conditioning via Pilates and back/leg exercises seems to be doing me much more good—but I may have to do a few this weekend just to attempt to bank some muscle memory.

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